Aviva Premiership: Leicester Tigers v Saracens Preview


Shaun Goosen takes a look at the Aviva Premiership tie between the Leicester Tigers and Saracens which takes place on Saturday the 23rd of December.

Sunday’s Champions Cup defeat to Clermont – their second to the French champions in six-days – marked Saracens’ seventh successive loss in all competitions. To say that the back-to-back champions of Europe have hit a mid-season slump would be one hell of an understatement; indeed, Mark McCall’s side haven’t shown any of their championship-winning mettle since their 44-13 win over London Irish at the back end of October. Still, they did come close at the Stade Marcel-Michelin on the weekend and should get back to winning ways when they face another struggling outfit in the form of Leicester at Welford Road on Saturday.

Leicester Tigers v Saracens | Saturday 23 December | Welford Road | 17:15

To Win (80 Mins)
Leicester 21/20 | Draw 16/1 | Saracens 17/20

The sixth-placed Tigers, despite having lost both of their latest Premiership encounters, are still only two-points off a qualifying berth. The grossly competitive nature of this season’s edition means that the side from the East Midlands, perennial underachievers of late, still have a very realistic shot at securing a home semi-final for the first time since 2013. If they are to keep up the pressure on the tournament’s trend-setters however, they will need to snap their four-match losing streak; starting with Saracens this weekend.

Leicester’s most recent result, a 16-25 home loss to Peter O’Mahony’s Munster, was, to put it mildly, a very frustrating outing. Despite scoring early on through Matt Tait, the Tigers gave away a plethora of needless penalties, allowing Munster’s first-five, Ian Keatley, to kick his side to victory. The hosts’ lineouts too went horribly awry, something they can ill-afford to repeat against a hurting Saracens outfit this weekend. Thankfully for  Leicester, they will again be able to call upon Manu Tuilagi after the England centre escaped punishment from the citing commissioner this week.

The Welford Road faithful will lift their heroes again this Saturday to ensure they push this unconfident 'Sarries' side close. From then on, however, they may just have to rely upon the England halfback duo of Ben Youngs and George Ford to control proceedings from there.

It is probably a measure of the quality of this side that, despite losing seven-games straight, the London club is still in contention for domestic and European honours... and still head into this one as odds-on favourites! They cannot, however, rely on their early-season form to carry them forever, and need to do something immediately if they are to stop the rot. They nearly managed to get over the line at Clermont on the weekend and, while they may not have gotten the desired result, will feel encouraged after pushing them close.

Saracens’ loose-trio will have their hands full in dealing with Leicester’s halfbacks this weekend, and the game will be halfway won should they ultimately manage to shut them down. Owen Farrell’s kicking is sure to play an instrumental role once again if they are to punish their ill-disciplined hosts in a similar vein as Munster, while the 'Sarries’ midfield – expected to be Alex Lozowski and Marcelo Bosch once more – will need to step up on defence to halt the progress of the Tiger’s dangerous strike-runners.

Verdict: Saracens 17/20
Again, I’m backing Saracens to overturn their poor recent run and claim a much-needed win over the Tigers at Welford Road. Like I said last week, the European Champions will have to bounce back sooner or later, and it seems as though I shall be reinforcing this mindset until the bloody cows come home!

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net

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